The organizer of the Muang Thai Chiang Mai Marathon is fully aware of the controversy surrounding his decision to exclude foreigners from the December race and, apparently, doesn’t care.
Sayun Jogandjoy, head of Bangkok-based sport promoter Jog & Joy Co., posted on his Facebook page that he made the decision to ban non-Thais from the Dec. 20 event – at least initially – on July 15.
Referring to a chart of Covid-19 infection “curves” from countries around the world, Sayun wrote “this year, I thought I would accept Thai runners and foreigners who are in Thailand. But today I saw this graph and I would like to change my mind. I want to be Thailand only”.
Both Thais and foreigners quickly and fervently pointed out how dumb it was for him to look at charts of infections in the U.S. or U.K. and correlate that to Thailand. Virtually all expats and tourists in the country now have been here since March’s lockdown and are virus-free. Meanwhile, more than 50,000 Thais have returned from countries in his graphic in the past five months, yet he doesn’t see them as a health threat.
Of course, they aren’t. Returned Thais have been through quarantine and pose no more of a Covid-19 threat than any Thai or foreigner who has been here for the duration for the pandemic.
But Sayun apparently doesn’t care. In the days since announcing his xenophobic decision, the race organizer has shared on his own page Facebook posts condemning the decision. He hasn’t commented, but it’s clear he knows he’s wrong and that both Thais and expats are outraged, but isn’t about to lose face by backing down.
The public is taking full advantage of the posts Sayun left public.
“Another racist idiot who doesn’t know how to read and interpret data,” wrote Facebook user Amiya Predeewech. “Ignorance is bliss. Please go read into how virus spread. While you at it, read about Xenophobia. You are infected with it.”
Thai runner Suphap Mongkoldee wrote that he just competed in a race in Rayong where foreigners were allowed to compete. “I think it’s a good thing to consider. The organizer should have a way to manage this.”
“Many of us foreigners living here in Thailand are left shocked and upset by your refusal to allow us entry,” wrote Facebook user Ian Franklin. “It goes against the very principles and ethics of the sport. To say you do this because of Covid-19 is nonsense.”
Of course, not all Thais criticized the decision. Sayun received more than a few comments supporting him and his decision.
“Don’t let the media pressure you,” wrote Chanwit Watcharasiranon.
“I’m rooting for you brother,” Wisit Sa-nguanhong chirped in, offering Sayun encouragement.
The marathon’s website states that foreign runners will be “considered” in October. But given Sayun’s acknowledgement of the controversy, there’s little indication he will change his mind.